Ask Dr. Mike: Coping with the Mental Health Effects of Anti-LGBTQ+ Discrimination

Taking lessons from this month's guests about supporting emotional well-being in the face of bias

Ask Dr Mike About Coping with the Mental Health Effects of Anti-LGBTQ+ Discrimination

Spinning out of the Going There with Dr. Mike podcast presented by Consequence and Sound Mind Live, the monthly “Ask Dr. Mike” column is here to answer listeners’ questions. As we wrap up Pride Month, Dr. Mike is here to guide us through the mental health effects of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

Over the last month of Pride, members of the queer community and allies alike have celebrated how wonderful and life-affirming it can be when people can freely explore, embrace, and express their authentic sexuality and gender identity. Being able to live openly as an LGBTQ+ person can radically bolster an individual’s sense of mental health and well-being. The spirit of Pride is to build a world in which everyone can live in a free and open way to embrace who they are and love who they want.

In an ideal world, we know our gender and sexuality from an early age and we have supportive family, friends, schools, and businesses that make us feel safe and supported. Unfortunately, many people struggle to understand and embrace their authentic gender identity and sexuality, and often face discrimination throughout their lives.

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Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at significant risk for facing mistreatment in many forms – from seemingly benign jokes to physical assault, as well as denial of equal rights under the law. Queer people can face criticism, rejection, and various forms of abuse from their own families, while also dealing with discrimination in public life like the workplace or politics. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has raised the specter of reduced equality under the law for LGBTQ+ individuals, including the possible loss of marriage equality.

The emotional, physical, social, and financial stress of these kinds of anti-LGBTQ+ bias and discrimination can be incredibly damaging to the mental health and well-being of members of the queer community. In fact, research has shown that such bigotry predicts increased depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in the queer community. It is thus critical that we not only work on reducing anti-LGBTQ+ behaviors and beliefs, but also help queer people cope with this discrimination to minimize the potentially damaging mental health effects.

This month on the Going There with Dr. Mike Podcast, we spoke with the musicians SOAK, MUNA, and The Aces about the unique stressors that members of the queer community face. In addition to sharing their own experiences, each artist shared their own stories about dealing with the damaging mental health effects they faced. Based on those discussions, here are four possible strategies and concepts that can help manage the negative mental health effects of anti-LGBTQ+ bias and discrimination:

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